As a volunteer organizer of PowerShift Atlantic, I often get the questions, “What is PowerShift?” To which I reply, “PowerShift is a by youth, for youth initiative which aims to connect, educate, and inspire youth to take up climate justice and environmental issues. We aim to build a transformative and powerful movement while pushing environmental and climate issues to the forefront of our society. We are building a collaborative and engaged youth experience in Atlantic Canada that is based on consensus and anti-oppression principles.”
But what does that mean?
When I thought about it, there are a lot of concepts and ideas in that description that I didn’t understand before I had attended my first PowerShift. So let me break it down and show you how each part of this description played out in my experience as a participant in the 2009 and 2012 PowerShifts.
PowerShift Atlantic is a grassroots led youth initiative:
This means the staff, volunteers, and participants are primarily youth. This also means that the planning and programming is youth centred, ensuring that youth voices are represented and that the information will be relevant to youth. If nothing else, it is a safe space for youth to be free of the notion that we’re all lazy, entitled, self-centred millennials. It is a safe place for youth with all levels of education and experience to learn together.
It aims to connect, educate, and inspire youth to take up climate justice and environmental issues:
This weekend will connect you with people from all over the region - which is amazing! But one of the great things I found from attending PowerShift in the past is that it also connected me with people from my own area that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I’ve had the opportunity to learn everything from the basics of climate change and resource extraction to media skills and non-violent direct action training. It’s impossible to not be inspired, not only by the speakers and panelists, but also by the energy of all the people who surround you.
We aim to build a transformative and powerful movement, while pushing environmental and climate issues to the forefront of our society. We are building a collaborative and engaged youth experience in Atlantic Canada that is based on consensus and anti-oppression principles:
This is where it gets a bit tricky. This process happened for me in two ways: a new way of understanding activism/organizing and stepping out of my comfort zone. It was through PowerShift that I began to understand that organizing could be pro-active and didn’t always have to be a response to a terrible event. That we could change the discourse by not always being an opposition force, but by inviting others to join a movement that is for things; for a healthy environment, for equality, for justice. I also learned that actions could be not only powerful, but fun. All those people I met at PowerShift, we continued to organize local actions and made it to the front of the provincial newspaper. Maybe not groundbreaking, but pretty good for a group of students who didn’t know each other only a month before.
At the same time I was learning about justice. Learning when it was time to shut-up and listen. Being appreciative of the effort made to elevate the voices of those living on the front lines. This is where I started to understand what justice means. This is why it has been at the centre of my life ever since. Sometimes this means going outside of my comfort zone and taking time to learn where I fit into this movement, because no matter our skills or experience, we all have a place in this movement.